Lucille Mulhall – The First Cowgirl

Lucille Mulhall was an anomaly—a small, feminine, soft-spoken girl who beat cowboys at their own game. After gaining acclaim as a Wild West performer, Lucille became the first woman commonly known as a cowgirl.

Lucille was born in Missouri in 1885. Her family relocated to Oklahoma to homestead during the land rush of 1889. The family started with 160 acres, which they eventually parlayed into the close to 80,000 acres.

As a young girl, Lucille rode the range with the cowhands, learning to rope, ride, and shoot. According to a New York Times article, “By the age of fourteen, she could break a bronco and shoot a coyote at five-hundred yards.”

Lucille’s father started a Wild West show, Mulhall’s Congress of Rough Riders and Ropers, in the early 1900s. Lucille starred in the show while still in her teens and became one of the first women to compete against men in roping and riding events and earned many championships, including three solid gold medals for steer roping in Texas, a cutting horse title and the title of World’s Champion Lady Roper.

When she performed in Madison Square Garden in New York City in 1905, she took the city by storm. A report in a New York newspaper said, “Against these bronzed and war-scarred veterans of the plains, a delicately featured blonde girl appeared. Slight of figure, refined and neat in appearance, attired in a becoming riding habit for hard riding, wearing a picturesque Mexican sombrero and holding in one hand a lariat of the finest cowhide, Lucille Mulhall comes forward to show what an eighteen-year-old girl can do in roping steers. In three minutes and thirty-six seconds, she lassoed and tied three steers. The veteran cowboys did their best to beat it, but their best was several seconds slower than the girl’s record breaking time. The cowboys and plainsmen who were gathered in large numbers to witness the contest broke into tremendous applause when the championship gold medal was awarded to the slight, pale-faced girl.”

As she gained fame, newspapers gave Lucille many names: Ranch Queen, Cowboy Girl, Female Conqueror or Beef and Horn, Lassoer in Lingerie, Dead Shot Girl, Daring Beauty of
the Plains, Queen of the Range. The name that stuck was Cowgirl.

Will Rogers was a member of Mulhall’s Wild West Show and helped Lucille hone her roping skills.  He wrote, “Lucille’s achievement in competition with cowboys was the direct start of what has since come to be known as The Cowgirl. Lucille was the first cowgirl.” Teddy Roosevelt also admired Lucille’s skills. He visited the Mulhall ranch and invited the Mulhall family to his inauguration. Geronimo gave her a beaded vest and Indian bow, which she treasured.

Lucille was a natural horse woman and known for her training abilities.She said, “My system of training consists of three things: patience, perseverance, and gentleness. Gentleness I consider one of the greatest factors in successful training.” Her horse, Governor, knew over forty tricks.

Lucille performed in other Wild West shows and toured Europe, performing for the crowned heads there.  She retired from world travel in 1917, but continued performing into the 1930s.

She was married twice, both marriages lasting only a few years.  Her first marriage produced a son. She died at the age of 55 in a car crash close to her home and was posthumously inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame and the Cowgirl Hall of Fame in the 1970s.

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Jeannie Watt raises cattle in Montana and loves all things western. When she's not writing, Jeannie enjoys sewing, making mosaic mirrors, riding her horses and buying hay. Lots and lots of hay.

21 thoughts on “Lucille Mulhall – The First Cowgirl”

  1. Wow move over Calamity Jane, Lucille Mulhall is the reigning Queen of all Wild West Shoes besides she was the real first Everything not you. My Gosh the world today needs to know our forgotten history. She was something else and everyone from cowboys to the President and if Teddy Eisenhower knew her she was and is still a legendary hero of the west and a girl at that when she started. Kudos to her and good gosh Lucille, America’s 1st Cowgirl. Way. To. Go. Girl. Wish I could have seen you too.
    Thank you for this fantastic historic figure forgotten in today’s world, I love it. Women and Girl Power but I love that no one bested or could even equal her and her talents. Lucille Mulhall was Unique, America knew it too. Bless You Jeannie for this post and I bet she helped women get the vote back then too by just being herself. I wonder…

    • Hi Elaine — Lucille was an amazing woman and the more I’ve read about her, the more impressed I am. I can’t imagine doing all the things she did, much less doing them in a divided skirt! And you could well be right about the vote! Thanks so much for stopping by, Elaine.

    • She was something. I love that she had a family that supported her talents instead of telling her to tone it down and act like a “lady”. Thanks for stopping in, Janine.

  2. What an amazing woman and what an exciting life she led. Bravo to her! There is so much I never learned in school in my HIStory class. It’s wonderful to learn of these great examples of who refused to be held back. Thanks Jeannie!

    • I so agree, Kathryn–there are so many stories out there that we don’t hear about. Thank goodness for the Internet, so we can research things more easily.

  3. Loved this post, Jeannie! I had never heard of Lucille, but what a fun story she has. 🙂 I love it when a female takes down the men in their own field. Ha! And they respected and loved her. How wonderful. So thankful they didn’t stick with Lassoer in Lingerie. Sounds like a raunchy burlesque. 😉

  4. Janine, I love this subject and learning about Lucille! What a lady. She must’ve been a tomboy deluxe when she was young. She’s exactly the fearless kind of women I like to put in my books. In fact, I’m currently writing a story about a heroine somewhat like Lucille.

    I’m acquainted with a rodeo trick rider named Marveena Meek who also made quite a name for herself. She was severely injured in freak accident in the arena and almost died. She, too, was inducted into the Cowgirl Hall of Fame a few years ago. A very neat woman. I love listening to her stories.

    Great post!

  5. Terrific story. And an Oklahoma girl who knew and worked with Will Rogers to boot! Thanks so much for telling us about her.

  6. Thanks for a fascinating post. Such daring, brave, adventurous women. Makes some of our complaints seem ridiculous.

    • I imagine Lucille encountered a few obstacles of a social nature as she followed her heart. Hurray for her doing what she wanted to do. Thanks for stopping by, Sally.

  7. I love the fact that cowBOYS had to work hard to even keep up with her! So much support from her family and the news sheets! Love, love, love that a woman could show every woman (approving or disapproving) that a real won could succeed so well. Yay for the first cowgirl.
    Thank you so much for brightening the day!

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